Wednesday was an exciting day where the students were able to meet with potential property owners and potential programmers of a future window art project. After a morning discussion and review of project ideas and spatial considerations, the group hit the streets, braved the cold and conducted an interior site audit.
The afternoon was spent in discussion with stakeholders from a wide range of arts, culture and social justice organizations. The Arts CARES students presented the window art project and facilitated a lively and energizing group discussion.
Our first stop on the interior site audit was the former Momentum clothing store on 11th avenue. This is a lovely, large space with high ceilings and lots of light. The property manager who gave us a tour of the space indicated that public access was not likely but a visual display was possible.
The main conflict with public access is smokers who congregate around the South and Eastern entrances. Our guild’s experience with smoking regulations at the Cornwall Centre Mall suggests there will be conflict moving smokers from that entrance way. The property owners do not want to attract that conflict until they have a new tenant for the space.
The next spot the group looked at was the basement of the Mitchell Building on the FW Hill mall. One of the U of R students, Perry, is the property owner of the Mitchell Building and was able to show off his space. This former pool hall is in need of a lot of T.L.C. but Perry has been able to use the creepy condition to good effect as a Hallowe’en Haunted House. This kind of space is common downtown and under-utilized publicly, it could be an option for certain events.
Our interior tour of the Somerset Block was cancelled so we concentrated our thoughts on the Momentum space for our after lunch stakeholder discussion.
Some of the organizations and businesses involved were:
Articulate Ink – Print making collective located at the awesome Creative City Centre
Briarpatch– Contemporary issues magazine based out of Regina
Carmichael Outreach– Advocates for the marginalized people in Regina
FadaDance – Contemporary dance troupe
Neutral Ground – Downtown art gallery and performance space
Plains Museum – Scarth Street museum celebrating the history of Regina and area
Dean Renwick Design Studio – Local clothing designer
Sask Filmpool Coop – Non-profit supporters of film and video production
Talking Dog Studios – Digital post production facility in Regina
There were five key questions for our stakeholder discussion:
1) The type of space you/ your group would like – active (performance, inside) – non active (visual images, outside)?
2) What would it take for you to be interested in participating, what sort of requirements do the arts and culture community have?
3) What are the potential barriers for you?
4) What options are some options for removing those barriers?
5) What are your requirements for the space (lighting, electrical outlets, washrooms etc…)?
Participants felt spaces could be active and non-active at different times. There was a strong feeling that connections could be made between window art spaces during a festival. In this situation, it was pointed out, the street corridors between spaces become their own active spaces of watching, meeting and moving.
With a single space, it was important to our stakeholders that it would rotate or evolve its programing so people would continue to visit. The mix of projects could be daily, with performance, visual display and/or music being combined or changed during the week to attract different audiences. One idea of advertising for a up-and-coming window art project was to slowly remove the paper window coverings over time to build interest for the final reveal/opening night.
Considering participation requirements, the group cited the importance of leadership. Being able to connect to different communities and keep people involved and aware of what’s going on is key. Utilizing both on and off-line communication to creates a strong new community while minding generation/income gaps within different organizations/audiences. It is also important to consider marginalized people downtown, connecting with them and including them in projects or as programmers.
The discussion around barriers came up with many examples. Certainly engaging with property owners was one. The meeting was not attended by any property owners and the stakeholders in attendance rightfully cited a disconnect in the ability to plan for projects without the imput of property owners.
Programmers volunteering time and effort was a key concern relating to the lack of recognition arts receive financially for their work. Some felt an artist’s career path inevitably means toiling to gain the exposure, make contacts and then become successful while others were adamant creators should always be compensated for their work.
Security and access were key concerns as well. What assurances could there be for the safety of historical artifacts, equipment, artwork etc… Who would be responsible? More than that, how do people access the spaces? Is there parking for night-time event goers near the site? Or is the audience on foot, during the day at lunch time or coffee breaks?
Encouragingly, the stakeholders thought of many solutions to the above barriers. Blending start times to mix audiences may be an effective way to avoid depending on certain demographics for success. Bringing youth, both students and young programmers, is another way to introduce many to the downtown. The energy of this group may bring downtown exposure, economic opportunities and talent. Financial concerns could be allayed by selling products and creations on display or with fundraising events. Another way to consider artist interests and alleviate security and legal issues before hand is with written contracts with property owners.
Finally, it is important to create welcoming, casual spaces that encourage people to explore and interact. This sense of comfort is important for the downtown in general. Comments about the perception of danger downtown, particularly with young people seems like a real problem. The goal of this project is to bring people downtown. To reactivate, introduce new economies and eventually new businesses that will fill those store-front gaps.
My take away from today is really simple and that is, get one done. If the city can see one project, where business, programmers and the public engage together in a new way with old space, I think there is potential for grander projects in the future.